This Thursday, New Haven residents will once again clamor for ice cream, music and henna in a busy evening for students from Yale and surrounding universities alike.
College Night on Broadway — a biannual event that promotes The Shops at Yale with discounts and free entertainment — debuted over 10 years ago to advertise stores in the Broadway shopping district to students who had voiced concerns that stores in the area were not marketing to them.
Since then, the evening event has grown in size, with attendance in the past several years increasing from 900 to 1,400 at its most recent iteration last spring, according to David DelVecchio, director of real estate asset management at University Properties. And, every year, roughly 30 percent of those attending are from non-Yale schools, primarily Quinnipiac University and Southern Connecticut State University, he added.
“College Night is a chance for the local merchants to show their appreciation to the students who have supported them, as well as introduce their businesses to new students,” DelVecchio said.
Part of this growth in attendance can be attributed to changes to the event, which in recent years has seen the addition of palm readers and henna tattoos, Chris Sciarppa, assistant manager at Denali, said. For his outdoor clothing store, College Night provides one of the main spikes in sales during the year. But unlike other busy periods such as Yale’s family weekend, College Night brings in a higher proportion of non-Yale students, Sciarppa said.
The area has also made changes in the past decade to its retail mix that attract more college students, Chris Mejias, area manager at Trailblazer and Denali, said. Though there are fewer food options — both Educated Burgher and A-1 Pizza closed in the summer of 2014 — the district now boasts big name retail, most notably the Apple Store, he said.
Mejias added that as a former University of New Haven student who graduated in 2008, he remembers riding a special shuttle to College Night.
To further drive up visitor numbers, University Properties also began outreach to Quinnipiac sororities and fraternities last spring, offering the Greek group with the most members in attendance a $250 donation to a charity of their choosing, University Properties marketing intern Mason Kukowski ’18 said. This year, they have extended the same offer to Yale Greek organizations.
“Greek life is such a strong social network that can help to encourage more students to participate in the event,” Kukowski said. “We had a good amount of Quinnipiac students in the spring as well.”
University Properties also markets through dean’s offices, Facebook and personal staff outreach.